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|A really short story I wrote up for some friends'a mine who keep pet rats. 's an odd story, but 'm an odd person.||
Black clouds boiled and grumbled in the sky overhead, occasionally bellowing in rage and spitting electrical fury. The scent of rain hung heavy in the air, so chokingly thick it was almost tangible enough to scoop up in a spoon and dump into a bowl. There was the usual expectant silence before every storm, with only a strong wind now and then shaking trees with an unreasonable force.
They were dark, angry winds.
Charlie Downs peered out from his hidey-hole, whiskers twitching apprehensively. It wouldn’t do him well to be caught out in what looked to be the worst hurricane since the Dawning, but again, it’d be worse for the Fawn patrol after him. He sighed, settled back against the earthen wall of his hold and rested a rather well-used shortsword on his lap. His belt was on the ground next to him, atop his pack; a still-holstered pistol lay atop the coiled leather, within easy reach.
Charlie took no chances since that nightmare a week before.
He didn’t close his eyes; closing his eyes would bring back the images. The babies, the does, the blood. He heard the terrified screams without thinking, saw the Pack’s resevoir filled with bodies of his kin. Rage and frustration shook him and he snapped his head to the side, glaring out the warrens mouth. He was half tempted to hunt them.
Purification, they called it. He was a small Hooded, one of the commoners. Legally, he was not permitted weapons – they’d have cut his hand off for the sword, and the pistol in his posession marked him as a dead rattkin if he was caught (Charlie didn’t care – they weren’t exactly hunting him to throw a party in the first place here). But, legally, he and his kind were now nothing. They’d been Culled.
Charlie Downs stared out the earthen maw a time longer, watching as the first few droplets built into a torrential downpour. Enough water trickled in to force him further back into the soft and earthy darkness, alone, tired and resigned.
In time he found a troubled sleep of blood, betrayal and the haunting, despairing wail of babes.
He woke several hours later. The patrol had tracked him fast, were now sniffing around the area trying to see where he’d holed up. Charlie’s hair puffed up around his leathers and he snarled quietly as he rose to gather his gear, buckling on the arsenal belt. He kept the blade drawn in his right hand, pistol in the left, and crept towards the tunnel mouth.
Something grabbed him by the whiskers and hauled so violently Charlie’s eyes filled with tears and he could do nothing else but reflexively leap forward. Someone, probably the same who grabbed him, kocked the pistol from his hand and flipped him on his back, pinning his swordarm to the ground. Gods and No but this one’s big! flashed through Charlie’s mind. He’d never been an Alpha, but he started fighting like one, bellowing as loudly as the Imperial atop him. He fought with tooth and claw since the quarters were too close for blade use, and he’d almost flipped the larger Fawn before the others closed in.
They started beating him good then. One dug out his sword, lost in the brawl, and made to move and cut off Charlie’s tail. Charlie squeaked involuntarily.
That drew nothing but cruel laughter.
The Wardens, they were called. Originally set to watch over Rattkin and keep them from harm. Now, that holy pact had been warped to Imperial law, and the Wardens were the prime force behind the Purification, culling the unwanted races from the earth.
Charlie lay stunned by those who, in their spirits, had once sworn to protect him and all others like him. And, in those supposedly caring eyes, a people who preached their endless love and protection for a race, he saw such depths of cruelty and a capacity for destruction that was by legend available only to the lost race of Humanity. At that moment he wanted to die, such realization brought to light.
Fate, fickle bitch that she is, decided that thought would be the springboard. The Imperial that was moving in with the rediscovered blade squeaked shrilly, before his neck snapped. He crumpled to the ground into a puddle of flesh and bone, a flash of steel arcing through the air before the body had finished folding on itself. Charlie’s sword buried itself to the hilt in another Imperial’s chest as it completed its aerial arc, sending him toppling backward, eyes round and bugged out in surprise. The one atop Charlie stared in shock; the last assessed the situation and made to flee.
He got about five yards before his chest exploded outward, a blast from a gun Dirty Harry would have been proud to own ripping him wide. The Alpha, still atop Charlie, crossed his eyes as the long, smoking and cynical barrel of that weapon came to rest on his nose.
The voice was gravelly. It sounded every bit like Clint Eastwood, hell bent for leather and on a spree of reckless vengeance that can only leave the bad guys piled in bloody corpses before the game was done. The Alpha of the decimated patrol knew the sound of voices like that. He got up and backed off.
Thunder rolled as the gun fired. Charlie winced, despite the bare moments before and what was about to happen, what he’d seen.
"Why’d you do that?" Charlie wasn’t sure what he was asking. His savior turned toward him and came into the scant light there was, moving slowly, almost bearlike.
"Didn’t want you covered in blood." Was the only response.
He was as big as a bear. Huge, at least three hundred pounds, a black Berkshire lumbered to a halt a few feet from him. The Berk was dressed plainly, with the kind of broad-brimmed hat you only see on sorcerers, stylish villains and incognito gods. It was pulled low to the point only his snout and whiskers were visible, the grip of a shotgun crowding over his right shoulder, the haft of a massive sword over the left. He radiated an aura not unlike some mythical warrior just risen from a tomb, armed with magic weapons and killing sorceries. Charlie Downs lost himself for a minute and his eyes grew wide.
"Lord No?" He asked, awe in his voice. He’d brought himself to a sitting position, but now he stopped brushing the wet soil and leaves from his fur, or cleaning the blood from it.
The Berk snorted.
"Wrong. I’m Gurf, son of Bob. Got things to do, Rattkin to help. You know how to use those toys you got?" Gurf gestured to the pistol a few feet away, then the shortsword buried in the fallen Imperial. Charlie nodded, the awe lessened but only some; Gurf was easily the biggest, fastest Rattkin he’d ever seen. He could be the Muad’Alpha for all he knew. Maybe only Lord No had been more than what stood here now.
"Then get it together. More folks like you to round up before we can get those bastards. ‘lest you’d rather keep running."
Charlie paused in the act of prying his sword free. He thought back again to the Pack, his brothers and sisters and nephews and neices and cousins, and especially the babies. He was never a fighter before that night, and still had a long way to go if tonight was any evidence. But he’d been ‘Culled’ so the race could be ‘Pure.’
Piss on that horror show.
"I’m in." Charlie said, sheathing the blade and holstering the pistol. Gurf nodded and just turned, heading on again the direction he was moving, doing nothing for the bodies. Charlie started after him, then paused for one more glance. Then he spat in disgust and hurried after.
The wind, dark and hateful, seemed to snicker as it blew through that glade, brushing aside dirt ages old; layers of earth had been torn up in the storm and gone unnoticed in the fight, though it had left Charlie’s temporary hideout untouched. The wind wanted the lesson to get through even to the thickheaded and stupid, maybe. Or maybe it was some god way up there, marking a lonely way through the world and striking a monument to sentience that would last only hours before nature took over again. Probably it was just coincidence, since nobody was there to appreciate the drama –the world works like that.
The wind dusted away a museum piece, a somehow perfectly preserved galvanized steel casing with a glass plate – a display case of one sort or another. Who the hell knows where it came from to be lying underground there. But, predictably, a flag bearing the symbols of the Nazi regime lay therein, grinning evilly at the world, reminding everyone (Well, no one, since nobody saw it) that names and faces, even races, come and go but the same old is still the same old no matter how you call it. Or cull it, puns being puns.
It probably was a god that stirred the wind, as an afterthought. They’re the kind to waste time on obvious lessons.
The Nanobots of Nevada (or Jack and the Jump-Gate)
|Netmares & Doscapes.. er, Chapter 1.||Faery Fire|